Don’t Be Haughty (from Wealth)

by Erin Bird

Today is Day 5 in our 40-day Generosity Campaign. If you missed the kick-off on Sunday, you can catch up with the sermon on the podcast or website. And if you didn’t get a devotional book yet, you can swing by the building and grab one or download it to your phone by searching your phone’s app store for givewithjoy (one word, no spaces).

In today’s blog post, we are continuing our walk through 1 Timothy 6:17-19 by looking at the second phrase of the passage. Here is the passage as a whole:

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19, ESV)

Don’t Think You’re Better

The phrase we will consider today is the “charge” from Paul to “not be haughty.” Some translations (like the NIV) use the word “arrogant,” while others (like the NASB) use the word “conceited.” But they all convey the same idea. To be haughty, arrogant, or conceited is to think so highly of yourself that you see yourself as better than others.

Unfortunately, this is a reality that has happened in far too many cultures throughout far too many moments in time. When a person’s bank account gets “full,” they often become “full” of themselves.

Don't be haughty from wealth“But Erin, I’m not rich,” you probably want to reply, “therefore, I’m not ‘haughty’. I sure don’t think I’m better than anyone else!” As we saw last week, you may not be “rich” in the eyes of most Americans, but globally and historically, you are quite wealthy. And this wealth may unknowingly (or knowingly!) cause you to think you are better than the poor in Haiti,  the homeless in New York, or even the people living in low-income apartments in Waverly. This means you have fallen into the same thought-trap into which many other rich people have fallen – to think a bit more highly of yourself than you ought.

The Gospel, however, teaches us otherwise. Jesus did not die only for the rich, nor did He die only for the poor. He died for the sins of humans, regardless of income capacity. So the size of your home, or the number of cars you drive, or the net worth of your possessions and financial accounts can’t nor ever will impress God, nor do they make you “better” than anyone else. As the cliché says, the ground is level at the foot of the cross.

Humble Generosity

I want you to also realize another truth: Jesus, God the Son, who knows true wealth and has all wealth (Psalm 24:1) was the humblest person on earth. Despite His possession of all things and all power, He still willingly and humbly went to the cross to die the death He did not deserve to give us the life we do not deserve.

And so because Jesus was the opposite of haughty, and out of his humility gave generously of His very life, may we “live like Jesus lived” and live out generous humility as well. And not just for the 40 days of a “generosity campaign,” but for all our days.

A Word To The Rich

 

A Word to the Rich

by Erin Bird

Hope you are doing fantastic on this Thursday (or whichever day you are reading this). If you’ve read the past few blog posts, we have been doing a series from Exodus 34:6-7 entitled God’s Bio. While we are only half-way through that series, we are going to take a six-week break to shift gears for our upcoming generosity series.

As you have hopefully heard, we kick off a generosity campaign this coming Sunday. The goal of the campaign isn’t to just get more money from you, nor is it to fill your head with a bunch of biblical ideas. Rather, the goal of the series is to help you see what God wants for you by helping you grow in generosity in all areas of life. (In Riverwood-speak, we want to help you open up your FIST (Finances, Influence, Skills, and Time) in even more Christ-honoring ways.)

Here is what the generosity campaign will look like:

  • On Sundays, we’ll study 2 Corinthians 9 understanding How to Give.
  • We also encourage you to take this topic deeper through 40 days of personal study and reflection through the devotional booklets you can pick up in the lobby or download from your phone’s app store (search for givewithjoy(one word, no spaces)).
  • And lastly, here in the weekly email, we will do a companion series called How to be Rich which will be a six-week study of 1 Timothy 6:17-19. The goal of this series will be to help all of us understand even more of the Scripture’s teaching on the topic of generosity.

So to kick us off, let’s read our key passage for this How to be Rich series:

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

Who are the Rich?

If you are like me, you don’t see yourself as “rich.” After all, the late Robin Leach would probably never have called you to be a guest on his show, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. So because you don’t see yourself as rich, let me help you understand who the rich are and the type of life they live.

Rich people…

  • not only own a car and can afford to put gasoline in it, but oftentimes they own more than one vehicle.
  • not only live in a house, but they often have a spare bedroom ready for guests.
  • have a special house for their cars called a “garage.”
  • have a job where they are paid more than the world average of $8,500 per year.
  • often have art like paintings, photographs, and such on their walls. (They also have books on shelves, many of which simply serve as decorations.)
  • have spare money that allows them to own domesticated animals.
  • have so much stuff they can’t fit it all in their house, so they build sheds or rent a storage unit to hold their possessions.
  • (and possibly most amazing of all) have rooms called “pantries” that are simply used for food storage. (They also own an appliance called a “refrigerator” that also stores food, but at cooler temperatures, which reduces the spoilage of food.)

You are the Rich!

A Word to the RichNow, after reading that list, you might be shocked. But I suspect you aren’t shocked at the way rich people live. Rather, you are probably shocked to rrealize that by global standards, YOU are rich.

Truly, you are richer than you realize. Which means, the Apostle Paul’s first phrase in our key passage (“as for the rich”) pertains to you.

This is why we are going to take six weeks to contemplate the call to generosity Paul wrote in these three verses. My hope is that you will see that generosity isn’t just about giving money, but about your life – your approach, your perception, and your attitude. And I hope you will also see that the generous life is truly a joyous life.

Slow to Anger

 

by Erin Bird

I have only one sibling, a brother named Derek. I am so thankful for the relationship I have with Derek. Anytime we are together ends up being fun. He’s a great cook, skilled in areas I am not, and very easy to get along with. Most everyone I know likes Derek.

But it wasn’t that way when we were kids. You see, Derek was a stereotypical redhead with a super short fuse. (If you’re a redhead, I do not say that to insult you!) I remember moments where we would be happily playing together when suddenly he would be yelling in rage the next. It was not uncommon to find me (the older brother who didn’t like fighting) locked safely in the bathroom while my brother’s temper cooled down. (I will confess, many of my big-brother antics  probably led to more than a few of my brother’s outbursts. 😬 )

If you have ever had a relationship with someone with a short temper, you can relate with how hard it is to know how to interact with such a person. You never know what is going to spark their anger, and so you find yourself emotionally tiptoeing around them and certain issues, keeping an emotional and relational distance from them. (If you are the one with the quick temper, you may have sensed more than once the emotional distance others give you.)

God the Temper Sloth

In case you have forgotten or didn’t realize, we are in a series here in the weekly email on God’s Bio as given in Exodus 34:6-7. Last week, we saw how God described Himself as “merciful and gracious.” Which means this week we are ready for the next phrase: “slow to anger.”

Many people in antiquity saw the gods as being short tempered like a stereotypical redhead. They feared that if they didn’t say the right prayers, or make the right sacrifices, or do all the right things, their god might curse them with bad crops, drought, warfare, disease, or death. This resulted in a “distant” relationship with their god.

If you are familiar with the Bible, you won’t be surprised to hear that these ideas bled into ancient Judaism. And with good reason! There are moments recorded in the historical books of the Old Testament where God revealed anger with the people, warned them of destruction, and even followed through with His plans of correction.

Take the Babylonian Exile of the Jewish people as recorded in 2 Kings 25 as an example. God clearly delivered a harsh blow to the people. Yet, as you study the whole of Scripture, you discover God first warned the people through prophets like Isaiah more than 100 years prior to Nebuchadnezzar’s attack. When they didn’t listen to the prophets and change their ways, then God affected the food. And when they didn’t respond to that, then He affected the weather. And when they still didn’t repent, then He allowed disease to come (see Amos 4:6-12 to read this progression). And on and on it went. Yet with each correction, the people still refused to repent.

I want you to notice two things from the example of the Babylonian Exile (and what we see in Exodus 34:6-7):

#1: God still gets upset – which is a good thing!

Notice in Exodus 34 God doesn’t say, “I’m a God who never gets angry.” His sending of the Babylonian army reveals He can get angry. But as we’ll see next, He is just slow getting to that point of anger.

But what I want you to realize is that God’s anger is actually a good thing! Think about it. Do you really want a God who isn’t bothered about injustice, or rape, or cruelty, or unfaithfulness, or murder? Trust me: you would not like or even love a God who didn’t get angry over such things. But a simple look at the cross reveals God’s anger with sin. (Thankfully, His anger didn’t lead Him to make us pay for our own sin, rather He took the penalty for us.)

#2: While God gets angry, He is very slow to lose His temper.

Notice that God did not send Babylon at the very first sign of Israel’s rebellion. He didn’t starve the people within the week after they didn’t observe the Sabbath. He didn’t send locusts within the hour when the people lied, cheated, and hurt one another. Rather, He was patient. He had already given them the Mosaic Law to remind them of what He had called them to do. He then sent prophets to call them to repentance for their rebellion against Him. He then made food scarce, hoping their hunger would drive them back. And on and on it went. But not because God was quick to anger. Rather, God showed incredible patience with His people.

This truth should be reassuring to you. Because God is slow to anger with your sin and shortcomings, you can approach His throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16). You do not have to worry that He will fly off the handle at you for the lie you told last week or the impure thoughts you had last night. While He does not take your sin lightly (after all, He paid for your sin with His death on the cross!), He does not lose His temper with you. He is patiently working within you through His Holy Spirit, because as His bio says, He is slow to anger.

The Merciful & Gracious God

by Erin Bird

Years ago, I read Praise Habit, a devotional book by David Crowder, the Christian music artist. If you aren’t familiar with Crowder, he is a bit quirky. You can see it in his appearance (his beard is epic!). You can hear it on many of his albums. But you especially see his quirkiness in his writing.

While David’s “quirkiness” created memorable devotionals from the Psalms, the place I most vividly recall his quirkiness in the book was the “author’s bio” at the end. (Unfortunately, I lent the book to someone and don’t recall who I gave it to, so I can’t go grab it off my shelf and type the bio accurately.) But what I recall is that just before the back cover was a photo of Mr. Crowder peering out a window. Under the photo, it said something like this…

“David Crowder is the pastor of music and arts at University Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, where he lives with his beautiful wife, Toni. He is also the lead singer and frontman for the band that bears his name. This is his first book. David is peering into the distance because the photographer told him to. Perhaps it makes him look smarter. Also, he is writing this in third person.”

If you were to write an “author’s bio” for yourself, you might not write it quite as humorously,(maybe you would) but I do suspect you’d do at least one thing similar. You’d write briefly.

Notice, Crowder didn’t write three chapters about himself. He wrote a brief paragraph. His bio is merely a snapshot of who he was when he wrote the book. And to keep his bio brief, he had to get right to the point.

Grace from the Get-Go

In Exodus 34:6-7, where God shares His “bio” with Moses, He doesn’t go on and on and on. He keeps it somewhat brief. This means God gets right to the point. However, He doesn’t start with His power, or His uniqueness, or even some deep theological concept. After stating His name, God starts His bio at the get-go with the words “merciful and gracious.”

Many people have the notion that the “God of the Old Testament” is a cranky old man who tells puny little humans to get off his lawn by killing them or demanding the impossible. But that is not the heart of God! He is full of mercy and grace. Not demanding, but patient. He is Loving. He is Present. He is all-knowing. He is… merciful and gracious.

While we can see and sense God’s mercy and graciousness in the air we breathe, or the people He’s brought into our lives, or even in the fact that we are given a new day every day, we see this characteristic most vividly through the cross of Christ. Jesus, God the Son, willingly went through the hell of crucifixion to give us the heaven of forgiveness. All of us were born in sin. Yet while our sin separates us from God, our sin does not repel Him. Rather He runs to us, taking on human flesh. Why? Because He is merciful and gracious. And out of His mercy & grace, He went to the cross to pay the penalty we couldn’t pay to give us the freedom we don’t deserve.

So if you’ve been writing God’s bio in your head as “can’t love someone like me,” or “doesn’t seem to care,” or even “full of hate,” please know that God DOES love you, for He is full of mercy and grace. After all, it’s the first thing He put in His brief bio. And I hope this truth redefines your bio.

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